Category Archives: Winston-Salem

Why You Should Join Me at ConvergeSouth

Let’s just make this short and sweet: you really should make time to attend ConvergeSouth next Friday at Wake Forest University. Why? It’s the best event in the Triad for learning about:

  • The ever evolving online social world and how it can impact your business
  • Content strategy
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Podcasting

That’s just for starters. The afternoon features hands-on DIY labs dedicated to:

  • Podcasting
  • YouTube
  • Tumblr websites
  • SquareSpace websites

This is a fantastic venue for anyone interested in learning how to build their businesses/non-profit organizations or their careers using the tools of the trade in today’s world. If you’d like to attend I can set you up with a special 25% discount so just reach out to me via email or in the comments. Hope to see you there!

My Pentathlon of Pain for Second Harvest Food Bank of NWNC

JonTutuHeels
I’ve been talking about this for a while, but now I’ve finally decided to pull the trigger. From 9/11/15 to 10/11/15 I’m going to engage in what I’ve dubbed Jon’s Pentathlon of Pain to raise money and awareness for Second Harvest Food Bank of NWNC. What exactly is it? Actually it’s pretty simple: it’s five physically trying or embarrassing activities that I will undertake to raise money on behalf of the food bank. Here’s how it will work:

  • Someone sponsors me for a certain amount of money and they get to pick the embarrassing or physically challenging thing I will do. For example I jumped in a pool last year wearing a tiara, tutu and high heals and with a slogan painted on my back. In exchange the Blue Ridge Companies gave hundreds of dollars to Second Harvest.
  • Another option is that I will do something trying and people will donate to the food bank after I complete the task. So if I run 15 miles then they’ll donate a dollar a mile – that kind of thing.

So how can you help? Well I’ve already signed up to do the 9/11 World Trade Center memorial stair climb. That’s 110 flights of stairs I will climb and descend on the morning of the 11th. You could agree to donate a certain amount per flight if you’d like. Or you can suggest an activity and have your company sponsor it. I’ll gladly promote your company in the process and every single dollar will go to Second Harvest.

If you want to simply make a donation just visit GoFundMe page I set up for the campaign. Or check out the schedule below and if you see an available slot and you have something crazy or challenging for me to do, then just reach out and see what we can work out!

Schedule of Events

  1. Sep 11, 2015: World Trade Center Memorial Stair climb – I’m gonna climb 100 stories!
  2. Sep 26, 2015: Salem Lake 30K Trail Race – I’ve never run more than 13.1 before and I have NOT been training beyond my normal routine so this is gonna hurt.
  3. To Be Determined. You can submit a proposal via email here.
  4. To Be Determined. You can submit a proposal via email here.
  5. To Be Determined. You can submit a proposal via email here.

Gustavo the Disappointing Winston-Salem Painter

From a long New York Times piece on photographer Robert Frank:

Frank retains the spontaneous enthusiasm of a much younger man. In his tenth decade, he is still a free-form outsider seeking untried situations, fresh leaps — and nothing pleases him more than picking up on the scent of something exceptional. Last year, after receiving intriguing letters postmarked North Carolina from an itinerant laborer named Gustavo, Frank set off to find him. He discovered Gustavo in Winston-Salem painting a house, he says, but ‘‘I was disappointed in him. He was ordinary. He seemed not to be possessed by anything. He just drifts.’’

That’s truly unfortunate. There are soooo many people here in Camel City that I’m sure Frank would have found extraordinary.

Very Big Development for Downtown Winston-Salem

Wrote this for the blog at the day job today. Exciting news for Camel City:

A few years ago the mayor of Winston-Salem took a bit of a political hit for leading a public bailout of the development that would eventually become the BB&T Ballpark just off of Business 40 in downtown Winston-Salem. Really the mayor and the rest of the city’s leaders didn’t have a choice – if they didn’t come up with the financing to finish the construction the private developer had started, then the city would have a giant red clay mud pit on a site that was envisioned as a vital part for the redevelopment of downtown – and because of the recession that was in full swing at the time there really weren’t any private sector options. Since they took the political hit and came up with the dough the city now has one of the nicest minor league ballparks in the country, the baseball team regularly sets tremendous attendance numbers and thousands of people are regularly drawn downtown from spring through the early fall. Oh, and they were able to restructure the debt so that it would be payable over 25 years and could eventually net the city some money.

So why the brief history lesson? Because today we’ve learned that a private developer is planning a very large multi-use project that will help the city realize the vision it had for that part of downtown those many years ago. From the Triad Business Journal:

An Atlanta-based real estate investment group has announced plans for more than 1 million square feet of retail, office, hotel and residential property adjacent to Winston-Salem’s downtown ballpark.

The proposed development by Brand Properties, called the Brookstown District at BB&T Ballpark, would include 300,000 square feet of retail, 300,000 square feet of office space, 250 hotel rooms and 580 luxury residential flats.

If this comes to fruition then the overall downtown plan that’s been promoted by the city’s leaders for years, with the Innovation Quarter to the east as one bookend and the ballpark/Brookstown area to the west as the other, will take a HUGE step towards being realized.

If You’re a Poor Kid in Forsyth County Then You’re Screwed

According to a recently released report Forsyth County, NC is the second worst county in the United States when it comes to income mobility for poor children. From the report in the New York Times:

Forsyth County is extremely bad for income mobility for children in poor families. It is among the worst counties in the U.S.

Location matters – enormously. If you’re poor and live in the Winston-Salem area, it’s better to be in Davie County than in Yadkin County or Forsyth County. Not only that, the younger you are when you move to Davie, the better you will do on average.

Every year a poor child spends in Davie County adds about $40 to his or her annual household income at age 26, compared with a childhood spent in the average American county. Over the course of a full childhood, which is up to age 20 for the purposes of this analysis, the difference adds up to about $800, or 3 percent, more in average income as a young adult…

It’s  among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder. It ranks 2nd out of 2,478 counties, better than almost no county in the nation.

Take a look at this graphic and you can see that there’s a huge disparity between the prospects for poor kids and rich kids in the county:

Source NYtimes.com

Source NYtimes.com

Forsyth’s neighbor to the east, Guilford County, isn’t much better off:

It’s among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder. It ranks 37th out of 2,478 counties, better than only about 1 percent of counties.

While it would be easy to say, “This should be a wake up call to the leaders of our community” I think that would be a cop out. This is the kind of thing that should concern us all because what do we think will eventually happen if we continue to allow a huge segment of our community to live in circumstances in which they perceive little chance of improving their lot in life? What do we think these young people will do when they lose hope?

So yeah, our elected leaders should view this as an early warning that they need to address these underlying causes of this disparity in opportunity, but this is bigger than them. All of us need to get engaged, through our schools, churches, civic groups, businesses and neighborhoods, in order to begin to make any progress in improving the prospects for our kids’ futures. The underlying issues are systemic – broken family structures, poor educational attainment, too many low wage jobs, etc. – and only a concerted effort by the entire community will be able to address them. If we don’t we will have much larger problems on our hands in years to come.

Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have made a great deal of progress in addressing the major economic challenges that were wrought by the declines of the local manufacturing industries, highlighted by the resurgence of downtown Winston-Salem, but now we need to make sure that the tide rises for everyone, not just those lucky enough to be born into well off families.

From Tobacco to Tech

The New York Times covers the revitalization of Winston-Salem’s downtown over the past 15-20 years, with a particular focus on the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter that started in 1986 when RJ Reynolds moved operations out of downtown, and then really picked up steam 5-10 years:

Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, rising on a 145-acre parcel on the developing east side of this midsize Carolina city, is a partnership between the city and state, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Wake Forest University and Wexford Science and Technology, the Baltimore-based primary developer. The development, initially named the Piedmont Triad Research Park, was once the site of a cigarette manufacturing plant owned by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco.

The irony of the Innovation Quarter’s focus on data analysis, biotech health research and medical education is not lost on the project’s developers. Neither is the design emphasis on light and air.

Skylights and spacious interior atriums open the dark, early 20th-century, multistory concrete factory buildings. The $517.5 million development also features new construction to house state-of-the art biomedical laboratories and classrooms. In all, the Innovation Quarter encompasses 2.5 million square feet of office, laboratory, classroom and residential space in 16 buildings surrounding an urban square.

But as those of us who live here know, the Innovation Quarter is just the largest piece of what has been an ongoing rebuilding puzzle for the Camel City:

From 1875, when Richard Joshua Reynolds founded the company that bore his name, through most of the 20th century, Winston-Salem moved with the rhythm of the tobacco harvest and the shifting domestic market for cigarette sales. During World War II, 15,000 people worked in the buildings the company owned on the city’s east side.

What remains of that economy and culture are sturdy structures being converted to new uses. The R.J. Reynolds Art Deco 21-story headquarters, designed by William F. Lamb and opened in 1929, is said to have been a model for the Empire State Building, completed in 1931. Later this year, at a cost of $60 million, the first seven floors of the Reynolds Building will open as a 211-room Kimpton Hotel. The other floors will have 150 residences.

The hotel development, said Mayor Allen Joines, was influenced by the Wake Forest project, two blocks away. The city, he said, is intent on forming medicine, information management and biotechnology into a new brand for Winston-Salem. “Since 2000, we’ve had $1.2 billion in real estate investment in our downtown,” Mayor Joines said. “The Innovation Quarter has been a big part of why that’s happened.” (Emphasis mine)

It’s nice to see that the remarkable transformation of Winston-Salem is getting noticed in other parts of the country, and it really has been something to behold. The combination of public-private initiatives, the transition from an “old” economy to a “new” economy, and the evolution of a sleepy (really dead) downtown social scene to one that is brimming with great restaurants, theaters, art institutions, etc. is something that could and probably will be studied by cities that find themselves in similar situations to Winston-Salem’s a generation ago.

Sure we still have a long way to go. We still suffer from underemployment in this area, high rates of food insecurity in homes and other major socio-economic challenges that need to be addressed, but we’re definitely in much better shape than we were when I moved here with my family ten years ago. If you aren’t from around here then I recommend you come check it out.

WalletHub Gives Triad Cities High Marks for Starting New Businesses

WalletHub.com ranked the 150 largest cities in the US (measured by population) to start businesses and the Triad’s cities fared pretty well:
#9 Greensboro
#19 Winston-Salem

Here’s the rest of NC’s cities:
#27 Fayetteville
#62 Charlotte
#90 Durham
#106 Raleigh

It’s nice to see that our area is being recognized for its relatively low costs, strong infrastructure and livability.

Here’s a link to the full results and methodology they used for the rankings.

Apartments a Big Part of Winston-Salem’s Downtown Revitalization

I wrote the following for the blog at the day job and am re-posting it here because I thought it would be of interest to some people from my neck of the woods:

At its annual meeting on February 24 the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership outlined how Winston-Salem’s downtown has been revitalized over the last 15+ years:

The nonprofit group listed 88 downtown investment projects since 2000 that have either been completed, are under way or for which a firm commitment has been made.

The combined capital investment value is $1.23 billion, topped by the $106 million spent on Wake Forest BioTech Place and the $100 million commitment by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center toward a major medical education facility. Both buildings are in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

The investment is divided into eight categories: health and technology (eight projects, total $445.4 million); infrastructure (10 projects, total $188.4 million); institutional and public development (15 projects, total $181.6 million); residential (15 projects, total $140 million); multiple use (eight projects, total $95.1 million); office (five projects, total $88.4 million); arts and entertainment (five projects, total $50.3 million); and commercial (22 projects, total $42.2 million).

The Nissen Building, a PTAA member, was the largest residential project at $32 million, although far from the only project downtown – Winston Factory Lofts, Plant 64, Hilltop House, The Gallery Lofts, and Link Apartments Brookstown to name just a few. The transformation of the former Reynolds HQ building into a Kimpton Hotel and apartments has recently captured the city’s imagination as well as the soon-to-open Mast General Store project that will add another marquee destination for the downtown. In other words the revitalization shows no signs of slowing down.

Meanwhile over in Greensboro the entity charged with leading its downtown revitalization, Downtown Greensboro Inc, is going through a transitional phase and is looking for a new leader. That’s important because there are several projects in the works that will alter downtown Greensboro significantly over the next few years and it’s essential that there be someone at the wheel who can bring together the various constituencies – city government, elected leaders, industry, educational institutions, etc. – and provide a strategic direction for downtown redevelopment. If Greensboro can manage to bring some strategic direction to the downtown then we’re sure to see even more apartments developed in the downtown area in addition to those like Greenway at Fisher Park, CityView and the Southeastern Building.

As for High Point, well they have a new mayor, lots of new city council members and a new city manager and one of their primary tasks is figuring out how, and where, to revitalize their city. With the furniture market they do have a unique challenge so it will be interesting to see how things evolve there.

These are indeed interesting and (finally) dynamic times in the Piedmont Triad.

Mary’s Gourmet Diner Gets the Daily Show Treatment and It Goes Well

For those of you who don’t live in the Winston-Salem area you probably haven’t had the pleasure of eating at Mary’s Gourmet Diner, but you might have heard about the social media kerfluffle that broke out a couple of months ago when someone posted the discount they got for praying, aka showing gratitude. Some people jumped on the story and started screaming discrimination, but once the local press started digging into it what was revealed is that Mary’s had a long-standing policy of letting their servers give on the spot discounts for acts of kindness, “moments of Zen”, etc.

From a business standpoint it was probably a bit risky as a policy because it did open the doors for misunderstandings and perceived bias, but on the other hand it was a positive way for the proprietor, Mary Haglund, to empower her employees to acknowledge positive patrons. (How’s that for a little bit of alliteration?) Anyway, the story got the Daily Show’s attention and it was nice to see they exposed the “perpetual panties in a twist” nature of the shouters.

Video is below, and here’s a link in case it doesn’t load here for some reason. If you aren’t from Winston-Salem and end up visiting our fair city then by all means visit Mary’s – great food and atmosphere.

Wake Forest Lab Developing Frankenweenies

Not sure how this escaped the local press, or if it didn’t escape the local press how I missed it when they covered it, but it seems that Wake Forest’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine has graduated from creating lab-grown bladders to lab-grown penises:

Penises grown in laboratories could soon be tested on men by scientists developing technology to help people with congenital abnormalities, or who have undergone surgery for aggressive cancer or suffered traumatic injury.

Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are assessing engineered penises for safety, function and durability. They hope to receive approval from the US Food and Drug Administration and to move to human testing within five years.

While it is fun, in a very immature way, to play word games with this story it really is serious science that will mean a lot to the men it helps. It’s also quite cool that it’s happening here in Winston-Salem.

FYI, they’re working on a LOT more than bladders and penises:

Atala’s team are working on 30 different types of tissues and organs, including the kidney and heart. They bioengineered and transplanted the first human bladder in 1999, the first urethra in 2004 and the first vagina in 2005.

Finally, a random fact for you: the plural of penis can be either penises or penes. Who knew?